The world’s ten most costly combat aircraft in 2021, ranked from most expensive to least expensive

Fighter jets are the most highly sophisticated, powerful, and technologically complicated aircraft in the armed services. It should come as no surprise that they are also the most costly weapons, both to buy brand new and to maintain.

The price of a fighter aircraft is never set in stone; rather, it is determined entirely by the needs of the customer. Depending on those requirements, the selling price may include the cost of operating and maintenance training, as well as the acquisition of weaponry. In the context of this article, the only price that is discussed is the minimal selling price; none of the other expenses are taken into account.

When consumers hear the price of the most costly fighter models, it is enough to make many of them doubt what they are hearing, and that is before they consider how the real performance stacks up against what was advertised as being possible.

10. Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet

F/A-18E/F Super Hornet

First is the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, which costs up to $67.4 million. The F/A-18 Super Hornet appeared in the late 90s. The F/A-18 Hornet is an all-weather jet aircraft use by the US navy, marine cops, and 7 other foreign countries.  In its fighter mode, the F/A-18 is ,used primarily as a fighter escort and for fleet air defense; in its attack mode, it is used for force projection, interdiction and close and deep air support.

Although the F/A-18 Super Hornet was initially developed as a carrier-based fighter aircraft, the aircraft received particular attention from countries that intended to use it for their air force. The latest upgrade of the F/A-18 is a Block III configuration, with major improvements to avionics and weapons. This makes the Super Hornet suitable for the latest 4.5 generation fighters but also pushes the price up.

The most expensive variant of this jet is the EA-18G Growler, a specialized electronic warfare aircraft that costs upwards of $100 million. Although it can be armed with both air-to-air and ground-to-ground weapons, it is too specialized to be considered the same as conventional fighters.

9. Lockheed Martin F-35A


The next is the Lockheed Martin F-35A for $78 million. Everything about the F-35 is complicated, this aircraft has gone down in history as the most expensive weapon ever. Lockheed Martin Corporation has been trying to keep the cost of an upcoming F-35A below $80 million, but that price tag is just the tip of the iceberg.

The operating costs of the F-35 jet are among the highest in the world, so the plane was expensive to buy but also very expensive to operate all three versions of the F-35 cost $38,000 per hour to fly. That’s significantly higher than others.

8. Saab JAS-39E/F Gripen

Jas-39 fighter

Next, is the Saab JAS-39E/F Gripen priced at $85 million. The Swedish JAS-39 Gripen, with its C and D variants, is renowned as one of the cheapest and new generation 4+ fighters available today. The cost of the C/D variant can also go down to $30 million.

Its latest variants E and F have changed that. While they are still much cheaper (estimated at $4,700 per flight hour) to operate than the 5th generation fighters, the cost of such a jet has more than doubled compared to the C/D variant.

The explanation for that lies in the difference of the new version with a lot of changes except for the airframe, all of which are upgraded. New radars, engines, avionics, improved weapons systems, and technological components have all been replaced.

7. Su-35 Flanker E


In the list of the most expensive fighters, the Sukhoi Su-35 Flanker E costs $85 million (Only Russian fighter aircraft in the list). Russian fighters have a reputation for being cheap, but the Su-35 is not. In fact, its export price is greater than that of Russia’s latest 5th generation fighter Su-57.

Perhaps this is also the reason, except China and Egypt no other country show interest in the Su-35, its cost is unofficial and cumulative. So, at least for now, the Su-35 remains Russia’s most expensive jet .

The price of the Su-35 fighter also seems a bit confusing, the Su-35 is an upgrade of the Su-27 from the Soviet era, the Su-35 belongs to the same family as the Su-30, Su-33, Su-34 and Su-30. Su-37. While the Su-33 and Su-37 are not for sale, the Su-34 and Su-30 as well as many of its variants are less than half the price of the Su-35.

6. F-15EX


Next is the McDonnell Douglas F-15EX Strike Eagle priced at $87.7 million. The F-15 itself isn’t supposed to be cheap, and its latest variant, the F-15EX, proves that the new version is also very expensive.

According to reporting by Air Force Magazine, which cited the per unit flyaway cost of F-15EX in the newly minted contract as $87.7 million, a figure including engines. The same article reported the unit flyaway cost for the latest Lot 14 batch of F-35As as $77.9 million, including its engine.

Even so, the operating cost of the F-15EX fighter is said to be “only” 29,000 USD / hour and the US government also hopes to bring the operating cost of the F-35A down to 36,000 USD by 2024. That, as well as the similarity with previous F-15 models make the F-15EX an attractive aircraft for many countries.

5. Chengdu J-20

Next is the Chinese pride Chengdu J-20, which costs $100-110 million. Little is known about the Chinese 5th generation jet and its price is also speculative. However, considering the fact that labor costs in the country are steadily increasing, as well as the country has to buy all export RD 93 and AL-31 jet engines from Russia.

However, the J-20 is not for sale as China never intended to export its flagship weapon. In the near future, they may offer another 5th generation fighter, Shenyang FC-31 for the international market although its price is unknown so far.

4. Dassault Rafale